Hello, dear readers, this week I’m bringing you something a little different. The Nightmare, is a documentary about eight different people’s experiences with sleep paralysis. Normally I’d sum up the movie or make a little quip, but instead I will be issuing a warning. If you do suffer from sleep paralysis and are afraid of triggering an episode (which can happen when it’s being discussed at length), then I caution you to stop reading this review and to not watch this documentary. If you are choosing to proceed, then prepare to be terrified by something worse than Wes Craven could ever put on screen; reality.

The Breakdown:


The documentary switches between interviews with eight people who suffer from sleep paralysis and dramatized versions of their stories. There are so many stories that weave through one another that I won’t try to give you a detailed version of the documentary here, but more of a general overview. Most people describe their episodes beginning with a shock that runs through their body. After that, some have dreams that fade out in to sleep paralysis and others simply wake without being able to move.

I suppose it would be helpful if I told you what sleep paralysis is. The standard definition is, a phenomenon in which people that are in the process of falling asleep or awakening experience a temporary inability to move, speak, or react. You are rendered completely helpless and if that isn’t enough, weird visions begin to happen to some as well. There is no cure for it and the few folks in the documentary that went to a doctor all seemed to get the same answer. They were told that stress was causing these episodes and to change their lifestyle. Most that did didn’t find the episodes stopping. A lot of people also associate sleep paralysis with lucid dreaming, which is where people are “awake,” in their dreams and have control over them. This is where you get a lot of stories about people being able to fly and build mountains or any sort of fantastical thing. It’s very close to sleep paralysis, but as the interviewees discuss, what they’re experiencing is the other side of the coin.

While being paralyzed they begin to see things and experience things, most of which that are discussed in this film are horrifying. These experiences range from the commonly seen shadow people, strange lights, disembodied voices, to even dead family members. The great thing about this documentary, however, is that the filmmaker isn’t just trying to scare us with spooky stories about shadow people, figures often seen while in sleep paralysis, they are trying to show how real this condition is and how it affects those experiencing it.

For example, a man talks about how his sleep paralysis has become so severe that he now experiences pain because of it on a nightly basis and strongly believes it will kill him some day. Imagine having to deal with something not only as terrifying as this condition can be, but also feeling real pain because of it every single night. On the other end of the spectrum, a woman talks about her final experience with sleep paralysis and a shadow man where she invoked the name of, Jesus, and felt the creature leave. Since then she hasn’t been bothered by the condition and has become religious, inspiring her to find a happier way of life that works for her.

Now, I’m going to slide a little off the rails here, because I again have a personal connection to this documentary. Since I was 15 I’ve had sleep paralysis. While it’s not every night or even every week, I do find myself awake without being awake and have the most terrifying experiences of my life because of it. It’s something that is so shocking and so bizarre that it’s hard to connect with other people after experiencing it. I would always have that piece of me I couldn’t share with others for fear of being misunderstood or dismissed.

Watching this documentary and seeing how similar my experiences were with those they were interviewing struck a strong cord with me. They get it. They understand what it’s like to see these things and to feel completely helpless or, as it’s mentioned in the movie, “to feel like you’re dying.” Now, I did feel very elated to have this new connection, but the documentary is also really flipping scary. Be warned if you don’t think you can handle seeing something like this portrayed by actors and good special FX, because it will get under your skin.


The filmmakers spend a lot of time building a tone and look that is perfect for this documentary. A lot of red and turquoise lighting is used to create a feeling of unease and evil. Lucky for them the main scare they had to portray were shadow people, which look like 3D shadows, so a couple of black Zentai suits and strong backlighting make those creepy bastards look great. There was even a part were they added some eyes and teeth, as described by the interviewee, and it really takes these spooky monsters to the next level of scary. They didn’t use a lot, but what they did use they used with care and create a perfect atmosphere for some real terror.

What Say I:

The Nightmare, is something I had to write about and recommend to anyone that is either curious to learn more or is going through this now and needs to have some kind of human connection over this. It’s scary so if you’re just looking for something to spook you, this works great as well. It’s easy to follow and the fact that it’s real gives it even more of a chill factor. If you’re up for it, I highly recommend it.

Credits & Other Things:

Director: Rodney Ascher

Trailer for, The Nightmare.

About The Author

A graduate in Creative Writing, I love horror, scifi, action, and revenge movies, but b-movies hold a special place in my heart.

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